For a very long time, I’ve been trying to ‘find myself’. I’ve been trying to grow and develop, change my thoughts, eliminate my anxiety and work on some stress reduction techniques. I’ve been practicing yoga, visualisation, gratitude, manifestations, deep breathing, deep work, mantras, reading self- help books and changing my diet to include more B vitamins in the hope that my brain will calm. Have I become a little nicer? Possibly. Do I feel more grateful for things? Yes. Has my stress gone and anxiety dwindled away? Absolutely not, if anything it’s soared beyond the limits as I’ve got more and more stressed about being more and more stressed.
So the questions I want to pose are these… what if we didn’t have to work on ourselves? What if we just realised that everything was a thought generated in our mind and nothing more? What if stress didn’t just happen to us and all those thoughts we had didn’t have to be acted on? Wouldn’t that be a game changer?
Now I’d like to say I had this realisation all on my own but I can’t…
After a 3 day long conference, watching YouTube videos and reading books about ‘The 3 Principles’ this is where my thinking started to change.
Now The 3 Principles are: Thought, Mind and Consciousness…. Now I can’t for the life of me explain what each one of those means in turn, but I’ll try and explain my understanding of the whole concept, or at least share with you what has been a light bulb moment in my life….
Every time we have a feeling, we start to generate ideas of where it’s coming from: I feel low, it must be my work; I feel anxious, it must be my relationship; I feel depressed, it must have been my childhood. We try to come up with different reasons in an attempt to control the feeling and eliminate it. Equally, if we have a good feeling we conclude that it’s coming from something in our physical world i.e. I feel great, it must be because I’m in love. What if none of that was really true?
My background is psychology… I wanted to be a psychologist and as a child I was taken to a psychiatrist to talk about my parents divorce… a preventative strategy to ensure I would be sane when I grew up. From this I learnt that there had to be a reason for my feelings and I had to talk about them.
Even in the field of self- help now, it’s about looking for reasons as to why you feel a certain way and how you can “breathe into it” and release it, letting go of that negativity. Up until now I actually believed all that.
What if someone told you that everything you feel is purely just your thought in that moment?
If I told you to think about something sad, you may feel sad, and if I told you to think about something happy, you’d feel happy. Your feelings are generated by your thoughts. It’s that simple.
Don’t believe me? Have you ever felt so down in the dumps and then someone you liked messaged you, or you heard some great news at work and you stopped worrying about something? Your whole feeling changes in that moment… That’s because a new thought has come into your mind. Even if you’re saying “well yes that’s because something has actually changed in my life” it’s true to some extent, but in reality the only thing that has really changed in that moment is your thought.
When I first heard about this simple idea in relation to feeling good, I thought that all I needed to do to be happy was to control my thoughts. I sat in the car when I got anxious screaming at myself “it’s only a thought!!!! Think about something else!!!!’…. but that didn’t work… at all…. In fact it made me more anxious. But this was still me doing something, still me trying to control something and still me practicing some kind of self- help strategy.
I didn’t realise that all I had to do was sit tight and let another thought pop up. The same way that the sad thought popped up, is the same way another thought would be right behind it, perhaps happier, perhaps not.
Our brain holds a thought factory and it will be generating thoughts all over the place, we just have to understand that idea, and let another thought be generated. We don’t need to do anything, it does it all on its own.
The problem arises when you think you have to do something and you try to deal with it. Rather than allowing another thought to pop up, you’re actually just focusing all your attention in that place, which is completely counter productive.
What I love about this is that it’s accessible to everyone, because our minds all do the same thing. They all have thought machines. We don’t have to aspire to be a yogi and we don’t have to write down everything we’re grateful for to find enlightenment. We all can have anxiety, we all can have stress, and we definitely all will (even the yogis- you can see behind the scenes!), but with this, if you just understand that a new thought will pop up soon (without trying to search for it or do anything about it), the feeling doesn’t dwindle, the anxiety goes sooner, and the depression becomes a sad thought in the moment.
Now this isn’t to say that nutrition can’t help, or that gut health doesn’t have a huge role in mood, because it does, but what if your stress reduction techniques were no longer a technique but an understanding that stress is a moment by moment thought?
What if all you had to ‘do’ to feel better would be to let another thought pop up? What if you didn’t have to figure it out, actively try and let it go, distract yourself, or breathe into it? What if all you did was say “oh yeah, I guess I had a crappy thought”, accepted it, and let time bring you another more pleasant thought?
You wouldn’t need to make changes, you wouldn’t need to get busy, and you wouldn’t have any cause for spiralling. A new, more pleasant thought would pop into your mind just as easily as the sad one did. Our thoughts are totally transient.
When this first realisation hit me, I turned to one of the speakers at this conference and asked her what on earth I should do with all this spare time on my hands if I wasn’t going to try and improve myself. She laughed and suggested I get a hobby!